Our social media feeds often startle us with photographs of marine animals in distress due to plastic pollution. Tortoises with deformed bodies stuck in plastic bottle rings or mammoth whales dying from a diet of plastic straws – news like these hits us hard every day. However, we often overlook how our daily plastic use is leading to such a massacre of marine species.
In Beypore beach of Kozhikode, Kerala, a group of youths were deeply bothered by the dire marine pollution scenario. They came up with the idea to amalgamate water sports with marine pollution awareness which led to the start of Jellyfish Watersports in 2013. While offering the tourists fun and eco-friendly water activities like kayaking or rowing, the team keeps them abreast of the diverse marine fauna of the region, slowly making their way into the endangered list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Four days ago, the Jellyfish Watersports team inaugurated the Marine Cemetery – world’s first ‘graveyard’ dedicated to critically-endangered aquatic species. The idea is to evoke shock among the visitors and prompt them to resolve against the use of single-use plastic.
The Story behind the Unique Concept
Tarun Gupta (33), Brand Executive of Jellyfish Watersports shares, “While interacting with tourists from the city, we realised that they have little connection with the water bodies. They do not realise the repercussion of the heaps of plastic waste they generate. So, we took it upon ourselves to educate them about how marine pollution is wreaking havoc on aquatic life.”
In the past three months, Jellyfish Watersports undertook two major environmental activities – Chaliyar River Paddle and Beypore Beach Cleanup.
“In the first, over a 100 recreational kayakers participated in the 3-day expedition along the Chaliyar river. Traversing over 68 km, they collected discarded plastic bottles and bags along their way, which we brought back to the shore,” informs Tarun.
Beypore Beach Cleanup saw enthusiastic participation of the young and old – from local citizens, school-goers, IIM-Kozhikode students and even tourists. The activity saw a collection of a whopping 800 kg of waste from the beach, from which they segregated over 2,000 plastic bottles.
What is Marine Cemetery?
Jellyfish Watersports decided to recycle this humongous amount of plastic waste into something creative and useful. That’s when they came up with the idea of a Marine Cemetery.
Located on an extended stretch of fallow land meeting the sea, the cemetery comprises of nine gravestones made out of plastic bottles.
Measuring 4 ft X 3 ft each, eight of these gravestones are dedicated to eight endangered marine species of the region. The largest tomb of 6 ft X 4 ft is in ‘remembrance’ of the Miss Kerala—a beautiful freshwater fish once found abundantly in the Chaliyar river. Often hailed as the pride of the state, the fish is now inching toward the critically-endangered status.
Here’s the entire list of species represented at the Marine Cemetery:
- Seahorse (Hippocampus)
- Parrotfish (Scariidae)
- Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)
- Eagle Rays (Aetomylaeus vespertilio)
- Sawfish (Pristidae)
- Dugong (Dugongidae)
- Zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum)
- Hammerhead shark (Sphyrnidae)
- Miss Kerala (Sahyadria denisonii)
Inaugurated by Kozhikode Collector S. Sambasiva Rao on 4 December 2019, the cemetery has seen a considerable footfall in these few days. Most of the visitors are local residents who throng the beach during sunrise and sunset where the sight of a beach-side graveyard intrigues many.
At the inauguration event, Rao stated, “The Marine Cemetery is a reminder of the destruction that we are bringing upon our planet in the name of convenience.”
Tarun shares that the Collector’s office has extended their full support to Marine Cemetery on behalf of the Clean Beach Mission and also expressed how it will help promote Kozhikode as a sustainable travel destination. They were supported by Aakash Ranison, a full-time traveller and climate activist in their endeavours.
Till date, Jellyfish Watersports have prompted over 200 individuals to pledge against single-use plastic in their lives. They believe that the Marine Cemetery will bring hundreds more into the anti-plastic brigade.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)